US president-elect Donald Trump says “only ‘stupid people or fools” would dismiss closer ties with Russia, and he seemed unswayed after his classified briefing on an intelligence report that accused Moscow of meddling on his behalf in the election that catapulted him to power.
“Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” Trump said in a series of tweets.
He added, “We have enough problems without yet another one,” and said Russians would respect “us far more” under his administration than they do with Barack Obama in the White House.
Trump repeatedly has questioned the assessment by American intelligence agencies that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election, and a classified report presented to him on Friday seemed to have little changed his thinking.
The report explicitly tied Russian President Vladimir Putin to election meddling and said that Moscow had a “clear preference” for Republican Trump in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
But Trump tweeted that with the many global issues confronting the US, it doesn’t need testy ties with Russia on the list.
“Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think that it is bad” to have a good relationship, he said, and suggested his approach might allow the adversaries to work together to solve “some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!”
Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only "stupid" people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2017
In an interview to be aired on Sunday, President Barack Obama told ABC that ”the Russians intended to meddle and they meddled” in the 2016 presidential election.
“One of the things I am concerned about is the degree to which we’ve seen a lot of commentary lately where there are Republicans or pundits or cable commentators who seem to have more confidence in Vladimir Putin than fellow Americans because those fellow Americans are Democrats,” Mr Obama told ABC.
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 7, 2017
While declining to directly include Mr Trump in that category, Mr Obama said that those who were putting their trust in Mr Putin were not being team players.
“What I will say is that, and I said that after the election, we have to remind ourselves that we’re on the same team,” Obama said. “Vladimir Putin is not on our team.”
In Trump's mind, "having a good relationship with Russia" means turning a blind eye to, if not facilitating, Putin's assault on democracy. https://t.co/Mv6gwgB0eY
— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) January 7, 2017
Even as intelligences officials looked back in their reports on the election, they also made a troublesome prediction: Russia isn’t done intruding in US politics and policymaking.
Immediately after the US election, Russia began a “spear-phishing” campaign to try to trick people into revealing their email passwords, targeting US government employees and think tanks that specialise in national security, defence and foreign policy, the report said.
The report was the most detailed public account to date of Russian efforts to hack the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and individual Democrats, among them Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
— Brian Latimer (@briskwalk) January 6, 2017
The unclassified version said Russian government provided emails to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks even though the website’s founder, Julian Assange, has denied that it got the emails it released from the Russian government. The report noted that the emails could have been passed through middlemen.
Russia also used state-funded propaganda and paid “trolls” to make nasty comments on social media services, the report said.
Moreover, intelligence officials believe that Moscow will apply lessons learned from its activities in the election to put its thumbprint on future elections in the United States and allied nations.
“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election,” the report said.
“We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”
Russia denies the US government’s allegations of hacking during the election campaign.
Trump: Hacking has ‘no effect’ on election outcome
In a statement after the briefing, Mr Trump did not squarely address whether he was told of the agencies’ belief Russia carried out the hacking.
Instead, he said: “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organisations” including the DNC.
“There was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines,” Trump said.
The New York businessman, who is to be inaugurated as president on January 20, also said he would appoint a team to give him a plan within 90 days of taking office on how to prevent cyber attacks but suggested that he would keep their recommendations secret.
“The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm,” Trump said.
In a telephone interview with the New York Times before his briefing with intelligence officials, Mr Trump had dismissed the controversy as “a political witch-hunt”.
Just remembered this— the Clinton camp put out a 6 min. vid detailing the reasons why Putin wanted Trump to win. pic.twitter.com/kBiD4voz20
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 7, 2017
While the Kremlin did not immediately respond to the report, Russia’s state media rubbished it.
“The headline-grabbing accusations are based on TV programmes, posts on social networks and material from entertainment publications,” Russia’s most-watched TV station Channel One said.
Alexander Khristenko, the Washington correspondent of the official state Rossiya 1 TV, suggested the report was an “attempt to undermine the president-elect’s legitimacy”.
“Donald Trump himself remained critically-minded about the intelligence services’ conclusions,” he said, adding that “this is clearly not the sort of reaction from Trump that Washington hawks were counting on.”